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Anti-Fracking Message Spelled Out To Governor

Concerned Long Islanders call on state officials to ‘Ban Fracking Now’

On May 3, Long Island environmental groups not only called on Governor Cuomo to ban hydro-fracking (fracking), a drilling technique that allows producers to extract gas from underground shale reserves, in New York State, but they clearly spelled it out. Participants in this demonstration held up signs with different letters to provide the following message: “Governor Cuomo: Ban Fracking Now.”

Sponsored by New Yorkers Against Fracking, a coalition of more than 80 organizations working to ban fracking in New York, this event was a part of a statewide day of action.

While this event took place at the North Hempstead Town Dock in Port Washington, other events were held in Buffalo, Manhattan, Endicott, Stone Ridge and Albany. Due to the efforts of the statewide coalition, more than 200,000 petitions calling on Governor Cuomo to ban fracking were delivered to his office on May 2, said organizers at the Port Washington demonstration.

Sam Bernhardt, Long Island organizer for Food & Water Watch, a national organization working to ban fracking in New York State, stated that fracking operators have a track record of contamination of water across the country. “We don’t want to bring that track record here to New York – that’s why we’re here today, calling on Governor Cuomo and our local officials to ban fracking in New York.”

Participants at this demonstration hailed from many different environmental organizations across Long Island.

Pete Suchmann, a member of the environmental organizations Operation Splash and Sludge Stoppers, spoke on the importance of educating children on these issues. “As a retired science teacher – 30 years at the Great Neck School District – I would like to ask all teachers to discuss this issue and related issues in their classrooms, challenging their students to do research and then to take action,” Suchmann said. “It is important for every student to know it is their responsibility to be an informed and an involved activist, to question the issues in the news and to take actions consistent with their understandings,” he added.

Patty Katz, chair of the green committee of Reach Out America, said, “I’m very proud to be a New Yorker, because a lot of times we don’t rush into things. And right now states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wyoming are feeling the repercussions of their decisions to extract natural gas.” Stating that rights to clean air and water must be protected at all costs, Katz asked the question, “If fracking is so safe, why are the gas companies exempted from the Clean Air and Water Act?”

Patti Wood, executive director of Grassroots Environmental Education, an environmental nonprofit organization based in Port Washington, said, “All of our personal and local efforts to protect our families from environmental contaminants will be in vain if Governor Cuomo permits horizontal hydro-fracking in New York State.” She also expressed gratitude for elected officials who have taken up this cause in Albany, and explained that State Senator Tony Avella has sponsored legislation that calls on the DEC to produce a health impact assessment of fracking and he is sponsoring another bill to ban fracking.

Sam Bernhardt stated that local organizers are also calling on Long Island elected officials – specifically state senators Dean Skelos and Jack Martins – to support legislation to ban fracking in New York.

“Senator Martins’ recent support for a one-year moratorium on fracking is a good step toward a ban on fracking in New York, providing for more time to work towards a ban on this dangerous process, and it illustrates bipartisan opposition to fracking,” Bernhardt said. “However, his co-sponsorship of the one-year moratorium is not enough. Senator Martins needs to support legislation to ban fracking and he must actively work as a member of the senate majority to move legislation that prevents fracking in New York,” he added.

It should be noted that Senator Martins has been speaking out against fracking since last fall. In his weekly column “From the Desk of Senator Jack Martins,” which is published in several of the Anton Community Newspapers, Martins wrote on the topic of fracking in a column titled “Let’s Look Before We Leap.” In this column, published Nov. 3, 2011, Martins stated that New York has bedrock formations known as the Marcellus and Utica Shales that could produce an economic windfall for this state if they are opened to fracking, but he also said that there are still questions on the safety and environmental impact of the process.

Martins wrote, “Simply put, relatively short-term economic benefit cannot be permitted to trump long-term ecological concerns. We have an intergenerational responsibility to our children to ensure that decisions we make do not negatively impact the environment, especially when it involves the viability of our drinking water. When these concerns are properly addressed, then sure, we can certainly use the jobs and economic benefit that hydro-fracking provides. But until then, it bears repeating, the gas is going nowhere.”

In a comment to Anton Community Newspapers, the senator’s press office further explained that Martins is co-sponsoring a bill for a moratorium, banning fracking for another year. It was noted that the DEC received so many public comments for its environmental review that the DEC commissioner said it would not be ready until this summer. Since the current moratorium expires this year on June 1, adding another year to the moratorium ensures that fracking will still be prohibited when the DEC report is released and it allows the state legislature more time to review the DEC’s findings. Martins’ press office stated that based on the information that is out there, Senator Martins remains opposed to hydro-fracking.

According to the NY State Senate, the anti-fracking bills that are sponsored by Senator Avella are being amended by the environmental conservation committee, of which Martins is not a member. Once the bill passes the committee, all state senators, including Martins, will have the opportunity to vote on these bills.